Ungrateful people are some of the hardest people to deal with in life, because learning how to deal with ungrateful people often means feeling a personal slight when you go above and beyond for someone and they act ungrateful in return.
Yet, if we’re going to try and be our best selves and good humans to our fellow neighbors (literal and otherwise), there are going to be situations where you’re going to have to interact with and even do things for people who are ungrateful.
Learning to not let it get to you is the hard part, but if you use these 7 tips, you can really shape your interactions and figure out how to not let their behavior become toxic or get you down.
The tips on dealing with ungrateful people will vary based on the actual person you’re dealing with.
An ungrateful family member may require you to deal with it differently than an ungrateful acquaintance that you never need to speak to again.
Similarly, if you work at a grocery store and have ungrateful customers, you might not get to do much about it except force a smile, whereas if it’s your sister being ungrateful, you can unleash a true Ted Talk on her.
1. Never Do Anything with Expectations
First things first, let’s talk about intent with which we do things for other people, because adjusting this is going to help make those ungrateful people mean so much less to us.
Whether you’re helping an old lady get something off the shelf, letting someone go in front of you in traffic, or something huge like taking in a foster child, do it with no expectations of anything in return.
That means no expectations of any physical things in return like gifts, as well as no verbal things in return like “thank yous” or emotional things in return like a warm fuzzy feeling.
Always do things for other people for 2 reasons: 1)you have to, because you’re being paid for it, or 2)you want to and it’s the right thing to do.
When we look at life this way, not expecting anyone to be grateful, we can focus more on how it makes us feel to do those things that we know are right, even if the other person doesn’t give us that satisfaction.
2. Talk to Them About It
We’re a huge fan of actually, you know, talking about things here at Goodbye, Self Help, because so many people are going through this list looking for all of the ways you can deal with ungrateful people without having to talk about it, but listen.
If the person is at all important to you, or someone like a family member that you can’t just cut contact with, you often have nothing to lose by talking about it.
It doesn’t have to be a huge sit-down conversation, but saying, “hey, you know I don’t mind watching the kids every day after school because I love them, but I feel a little unappreciated when you just assume I will” is at least going to get your feelings out in the open.
If they are such a toxic person that they don’t then go, “oh my gosh, I’m sorry! Of course I appreciate what you do and thank you so much,” then you can move on to some of the other tips in the list.
3. Make a Joke About It
Sometimes, people are ungrateful on accident, and making a joke about it in the moment can help point that out without causing a scene.
If you give a gift to your niece for Christmas and she doesn’t say anything about it, make a joke like, “hey! Don’t I get a thank you for being the best aunt ever?” or something similar.
Obviously, I’m not encouraging you to be passive aggressive (however tempting it is), but if it is with someone that you think has just forgotten to be grateful or gotten distracted, a joke will do fine!
4. Lead by Example
Another thing that we can do on our own is to practice our own gratefulness and showing that to other people.
If you feel like your team is ungrateful for your work in the office, you should make sure that whenever someone does something nice for you, you should go above and beyond to thank them and point out how grateful you are.
Being the person who always makes sure that people know how much you appreciate them is going to encourage those people, in return to show their own gratitude or to change their behavior in a positive way.
And if it doesn’t, oh well, at least you know that you’re the bigger person and that you’re never going to make someone feel like they need to look up this article in order to deal with you!
5. Have Compassion for their Circumstances
Often, when we do things for people, it’s because they’re going through a rough time.
If your foster child seems ungrateful you have taken them in or your sister who just had a baby seems ungrateful for the meals you’ve dropped off, give them a break.
People who need help aren’t always thinking about the other person because they’re dealing with their own problems or emotions, and it can help to be compassionate about their circumstances.
Ever heard the story where someone calls someone later on in life to say thank you for a particular thing they did years ago?
That happens all the time, and is because people are so wrapped up in their own trials to express their gratitude in the moment.
But it doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do or that you haven’t helped them.
6. Limit the Amount You Do for Them
If it is a situation where someone isn’t grateful for things you do for them regularly, such as you watch your sister’s kids every school afternoon for free and she seems to now use you as free babysitting, limit the amount you do for them.
You don’t have explicitly say, “I’m not doing this anymore because you’re not grateful,” but you can lay down the boundaries and say, “Hey, I’m going to start needing Mondays and Thursdays to myself to get some things done from next month, so I won’t be able to watch the kids on those days and wanted to give you notice.”
If someone isn’t using you, they will have no problem with this.
If they are, then it will become obvious at how mad they get when you suddenly aren’t available to them 24/7 anymore.
7. Cut Contact Completely if You’re Being Used
At the end of the day, whether it’s a friend or acquaintance or family member, people who just use you for their own benefit are not people you want in your life.
This is a drastic option when it comes to family and close friends, but if you’ve tried talking to them about it, setting boundaries, and nothing has changed, it’s time to think about whether you want to cut contact and stop helping them completely.
This is obviously much easier if it’s an acquaintance or not a close friend, and it might cause some waves, so make sure you’ve tried everything else first, but you don’t exist to be used by someone else for their own gain, and you shouldn’t put up with it if you do.